Baker maps high and low risk areas of MA, says some may return to school

BOSTON — As part of the state’s tracking and reporting of COVID-19 cases across the commonwealth, officials will now publish a weekly map indicating the highest risk communities for spread of the coronavirus.

The map will highlight communities with greater than eight cases per 100,000 residents as high risk. In the first map, published Tuesday, the governor specified Lynn, Revere, Chelsea and Everett as the high risk communities at the moment.

“The good news here should not get lost. 318 communities here in Massachusetts are at or below national benchmarks with respect to containing COVID in their communities, but we still have work to do in Massachusetts,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

High risk communities are highlighted in red, while slight risk communities are highlighted in yellow and low risk communities are green or white (unshaded).

Any city or town designated higher risk is considered to have a high level of COVID infection, and will receive additional support from the Commonwealth to address the spread of the virus.

“If you are in a green or white (unshaded) community I cannot imagine a reason not to go back (to school) whether it’s full time or some kind of a hybrid because for all intents and purposes, you meet the benchmarks that are being used across the country,” Baker said.

The pandemic has prompted a top to bottom review of every aspect of education, from where kids will sit to the quality of the air they’ll breathe and share when they eventually return to school.

Last week, Baker announced the gathering limit for outdoor events will be reduced from 100 to 50 people, and he’s giving state and local police the power to enforce coronavirus-related orders.

Statewide Enforcement and Intervention supports will include:

  • Targeted interventions and inspections by a range of member agencies, including Local Services, Labor Standards, DPH, MSP and ABCC, coordinated by EOPSS and MEMA.
  • Increased enforcement, including fines, of sector guidance for businesses to ensure businesses and residents are aware of and following COVID-19 orders.
  • Cease and desist orders as necessary for businesses and organizations in violation of the COVID-19 orders.
  • Support for ABCC and local licensing boards in exercising their existing authority to fine restaurants or suspend or cancel liquor licenses when restaurants do not comply with required COVID-19 safety measure or sanitation codes.
  • Targeted public messaging to alert residents of higher risk COVID communities (road signs, PSAs, reverse 911, etc.).
  • Technical support to local government officials to support enhanced local COVID-19 prevention efforts such as assistance in accessing CARES Act funding.
  • Potential restrictions or shutdowns for parks, playgrounds, businesses or other entities and locations believed to be contributing to the COVID-19 spread in higher risk COVID-19 communities.
  • Additional public health support such as testing, tracing and quarantining.

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